During the 2015 New Zealand Millennium Cup, TSO was welcomed on board local-run boat 34m Sassafras, built by Royal Huisman in 1999. Her owners – let’s call them Mr and Mrs S – are devout New Zealanders and have been cruising around the Pacific since they bought Sassafras 10 years ago. Here, they share the love of their country and the ownership lessons they’ve learnt in their time spent during the superyacht industry.

Sassafras at the Millennium Cup. Credit: Jeff Brown

What are your reasons for keeping Sassafras in New Zealand?

Mrs S: We obviously love it here and we know the New Zealand coastline really well. There are other parts of the world that we have been to and the scenery is different, the people are different and the onshore experience is different but if you want to be involved in fishing and diving and amazing anchorages then New Zealand is pretty hard to beat. The important thing is that boats arrive here at the right time and come when we have our best weather in January, February and March.

Mr S:
The other benefit of being down here is the Auckland waterfront. If you have the right contacts when you come to New Zealand, it is a pretty fantastic place to get work done on the boat. We have had a lot of work done here and we’ve done a little bit of work oversees when were first bought the boat and, from our point of view, there is nothing that you can’t do here if you get in touch with the right people. New Zealand as a race has boating in their nature and you get a lot of people here that absolutely understand these boats, so I think that is a double whammy.

The New Zealand coastline. Credit: Jeff Brown

Why do you think certain sectors of the superyacht industry in New Zealand are suffering at the moment?

Mr S: The dollar is not helping the industry as much as it used to. I think the value of the dollar is one thing, but it is the amount of work you can get done for the amount of dollars you are spending that has to be taken into account. It is a shame that a couple of the big new build yards didn’t set up for refit to get them through the difficult period and keep them open.

Reflecting on your 10 years as owners, how has your ownership experience evolved?

Mr S: What has changed for me as an owner is that with experience you realise that you have to engage with and have the best people around you. We are extremely lucky in New Zealand that it is a great breeding ground for sailors and there are a lot that have gone away and had international experience. I am also in a fortunate situation, being a Kiwi, that there are a number of people around the world that actually really want to work on a Kiwi-owned boat. So I think that we have been spoilt in that regard.

"You hear the term ‘experienced owners’ and we are probably just half way up that scale – there is still a lot in it."

Over the years we have just got better and better at working out who are the right people to engage with – both from and industry perspective and a crew perspective – and there are certain people that are attracted to this boat. For me it is a lovely-sized boat: we can do a lot with it, it is small enough so that we can keep it personal and the boat runs very well with just family, friends and a small crew on board. That is another reason why it is important that the crew personable people.

Mrs S: That’s one of the advantages of getting to know the industry and getting to know how to be an owner because it’s easy to buy one of these things, but getting the right personnel and knowing what to do with it is not. And that has been one of the biggest learning curves for us – you hear the term ‘experienced owners’ and we are probably just half way up that scale – there is still a lot in it.